Nobody ever asked my birthday

Not a single soul

Harry made his goodbyes after supper, trying not to think of descending into a detention with Snape as if he was awaiting his doom.

Snape, after all, had been making a good show of detentions, while generally using them as a platform for teaching Harry.

Well, Harry reconsidered, I'm sure Snape would say that he'd always been teaching me something, I just hadn't been learning.

So, Harry treaded the steps two by two, with a frission of excitement, interest warring with dread in his guts.

Early, as usual.

But not by much, Harry thought with some satisfaction - he really didn't need whatever aggravation Malfoy would magick up if he caught Potter in the dungeons.

Especially if Harry'd admitted he was there for detention.

Imagining showing up on Snape's door with his entire outfit dripping green snot took up the rest of the 'early.' And Snape's face, of course. Horror, and then a sneer that would make Snape's earlier ones pale with shame.

It was a minute before seven.

Harry knocked on the door.

"Enter," Snape's voice boomed.

Harry stepped inside, to the cat-whisper of Snape's voice, "You're early."

Harry shut the door before responding, "Yes, sir."

"You may begin with the cauldrons. Finish them, and you'll find more interesting work awaits." Snape said flatly, his manner dismissive.

xxx

Ten Filthy Cauldrons.

How long did Snape expect this detention to take, anyhow?

Five cauldrons had been Snape's general assignment for cheek - maybe Harry'd gotten lucky and these were less dirty.

Yeah right.

xxx

Harry got to work, and while working - he had plenty of time to think.

He wouldn't have told a single soul about his actual feelings about cleaning cauldrons.

It was calming, and peaceful, and when you finished one, Harry was always left a bit satisfied.

Just like doing the dishes at the Dursleys.

There was just a feeling of accomplishment about the whole thing.

Harry kept working, setting down the first cauldron.

At some point, Snape came over, ran a finger around the cauldron's lip, and said, "You've missed the oxalic residue, and it'll react with the gurdyworms if you don't stop what you're doing and fix it posthaste."

Suppressing a sigh (Harry knew better than that!), Harry dropped what he was doing, donned gloves, and added the correct mixture of lye.

It seemed to take hours to finish the cauldrons, but at least Harry managed to avoid any cauldron-melting mishaps. (He'd shook like a leaf the first time he'd melted one - it had taken him nearly half an hour to muster the courage to raise his voice and mention it to Snape.)*

xxx

"I'm done sir," Harry said.

"Would you like to dissect eyeballs, or remove cathairs?" Snape said.

"Eyeballs, sir." Harry said, not really wanting to know if Snape meant from live cats or not. Besides, did he really want to look at stiff, dead cats? Eyeballs were at least Not A Living Thing.

Harry donned a smock at the cleaning station, his satchel left far behind near the desks. Lord, but they were messy!

Harry was actually getting about as filthy as his previous daydream. Only, this time it was Snape's idea, and that made it okay in Snape's book.

Harry thought, as punishments go, this one would fit Hermione or Malfoy better than him. They were the type to care about appearances. Harry was glad when his clothes fit him, and that was about that.

"Potter, I need you to fetch some Goblin's Gold from down the stairs." Snape said, looking up at Harry from his brewing station.

Harry's eyes widened. That was both an uncommon ingredient, and one Not Generally Found in dank dungeons - it lived underwater...

"It's a tad mucky down there, so you ought to consider leaving your wand and supplies up here. Better than losing them to the mire, I should say. After all, the moss can be harvested by hand." Snape continued.

*And we can be sure, as Harry isn't, that Snape knew the whole time.

[a/n: Reviews appreciated! Ideas welcome! Thoughts coaxed out of you with earnest puppy dog eyes!

Guesses as to what Snape's up to?]